The Spastic Colon

Spastic colons are easily mistaken for semicolons, especially at lunchtime. Spastic colon may not be the worst of all possible maladies, but it's no cakewalk, either. For the past few days I've been plagued with the symptoms you'd expect from this sort of thing, along with a few that seem to belong to a different ailment altogether. And therein, as my pappy used to say, lies the rub.

Okay, my pappy never actually said that. It isn't the sort of thing he would have said, because it would have made him seem linguistically incompetent, and if there's one thing my pappy hated, it's linguistic incompetence. Now that I think about it, we never called him "pappy," either. But none of that matters, because this is supposed to be about spastic colons, not pappies.

The thing I hate most about spastic colons is their similarity to semicolons, which can be make it tough to figure out what the writer was trying to get across. I mean, it isn't like you can substitute one for the other just because you feel like it. When you're trying to zip through some text because it's almost lunchtime, the last thing you want is a colon flopping around like a fish. Fish aren't semicolons, but they sure aren't colons, either.

I don't think my pappy would have gone fishing if he didn't like the taste of fish.



  1. Your first two paragraphs are delightfully reminiscent of Enrique Vila-Matas, whose novel MONTANO'S MALADY I suspect you would enjoy tremendously (if you haven't already enjoyed it tremendously).

    Re: your first sentence, I wonder how many people have actually taken a cakewalk. I participated in a cakewalk at a folk festival in Tennessee and even won the cake. (True story.) So I'm in a position to vouch for your use of the word.

  2. I haven't yet had the pleasure of enjoying Montano's Malady, but will make an attempt to do so. Re. taking the cake, perhaps there are cakewalks that reward the winner with, say, a copy of an Enrique Vila-Matas novel instead?

  3. Just remember that it is a very bad thing to break a rule, and if she is under 18 then you are really in trouble.


  4. No worries. Anything under 12" goes straight back into the water.